Senators signed an oath and were sworn in as jurors Wednesday afternoon, a day after the Senate received the articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from House managers. Mayorkas was accused of willfully and systemically refusing to comply with the law and breaching public trust over his handling of the border.

But Republicans didn’t have an opportunity to make their case — despite multiple efforts to adjourn the session and move to a closed session. The proceedings ended after a strategic play by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to eliminate the articles of impeachment, which both Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney opposed.

Both articles of impeachment against Mayorkas fall

Earlier in the day, Schumer, D-N.Y., said the charges against Mayorkas “failed to meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake.”

Schumer struck out the first impeachment article through a point of order, saying it “does not allege conduct that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor as required under Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution and it’s therefore unconstitutional under the precedents and practices of the Senate.” In exchange, he offered Republicans floor time for debate. Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., objected.

“A fair trial seeks the truth, nothing more, nothing less. I will not assist Sen. Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze, bulldozing 200 years of precedent,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged his colleagues to “take these proceedings seriously,” and not short circuit them, before unsuccessfully attempting to kill Schumer’s motion, which ultimately passed 51 to 48 to 1 along straight party lines.

Shortly after, Schumer proceeded to do away with the second impeachment article, saying, again, that it was unconstitutional. Its passage was also on a partisan basis, with lawmakers voting 51 to 49.

Sen. Mike Lee tried to buy more time during Mayorkas impeachment

Lee took the floor and argued Schumer was wrong for wiping out the first article of impeachment that claims Mayorkas willfully defied the law, and the second that “accuses him of knowingly making false statements.”

Lee said his colleagues should consider a motion for a closed session “to allow for deliberation on this very consequential point of order ... (that) violates hundreds of years of Anglo-American legal precedent.” This motion was voted down.

Lee, a vocal proponent for holding the trial, in a social post on X, said he was “scrambling” with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “to respond to Schumer’s baseless point of order — suggesting the Mayorkas impeachment doesn’t identify an impeachable offense.”

McConnell, in response to the proceedings, said, “We’ve set a very unfortunate precedent here.”

In this image from video from Senate Television, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks after the Senate dismissed both charges in the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. | Senate Television via Associated Press

At Tuesday’s press conference, Lee, joined by other GOP senators, said the Constitution dictates the Senate move forward with the trial.

His communications director, Billy Gribbin, told the Deseret News, “Sen. Lee believes that conducting a Senate trial for impeached DHS Secretary Mayorkas is vitally important for two main reasons. First, Sec. Mayorkas is directly responsible for creating and worsening the disastrous invasion of our Southern border, and must be held accountable — and removed from his role — in order to start securing it,” he said.

“Second, the Constitution specifically requires the U.S. Senate to hold a trial after receiving articles of impeachment from the House, and allowing Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to simply ignore this duty for political reasons would break with more than 235 years of American law and tradition.”

How did Sen. Mitt Romney vote on the Mayorkas impeachment?

Romney voted alongside the Republican conference in opposing Schumer’s efforts to kill the impeachment articles. He supported Lee’s motion for a closed session and the several GOP attempts to allow debate and delay the proceedings.

In a statement, Romney said, “while I share the House’s outrage over the President’s disastrous border policies, and I ultimately do not believe his cabinet Secretary’s implementation of those policies meets the Constitution’s test of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ I voted against the Schumer points of order because it was important to engage in some level of debate. It was a mistake for Senate Democrats to set a new precedent of disposing of the Articles of Impeachment without any evaluation whatsoever.”

Last week, Lee and 43 other Republican senators signed a letter calling for a full trial but Romney wasn’t a signatory.

Romney, in his previous remarks, said he would vote against a trial, saying Mayorkas is “the wrong target” and that the Republican Party wanted to “underscore how bad the mess is at the border and point out the president’s responsibility for that.”

The White House praised Democrats for voting down the “baseless impeachment that even conservative legal scholars said was unconstitutional,” according to Ian Sams, the spokesperson for oversight and investigations.